Blind woman refused entry to Michelin-starred Norfolk hotel and restaurant because owner has fear of dogs - but who was right?
- Credit: Jane Kolton
A Michelin star restaurant and hotel has been urged to make its policy on guide dogs clearer after a blind woman was refused entry because its chef has a fear of the animal.
Jane Kolton and her husband Pete wanted to visit the Neptune Inn in Hunstanton and were in the process of booking their stay.
But when they made the award-winning premises aware of Venus the guide dog they were told they were unable to visit due to the owner's severe fear of dogs.
However, today a national blind charity said it had contacted the venue over the issue because they weren't adhering to legislation about how such a situation should be handled.
The couple, from York, regularly enjoy dining out and since Mrs Kolton's got Venus nine months ago the dog has gone everywhere with her.
Mrs Kolton said she could understand the owner has a fear of dogs but she was very upset when she was told she could not dine their due to her reliance on Venus.
'It is really, really distressing and I am really angry. It is hard enough being blind without being told you can't go somewhere because of it,' she said. 'She has absolutely changed my life and I can actually go out now which make this even more upsetting. It would be like asking someone in a wheelchair to leave the chair outside. I would just ask them to walk in my shoes to see how it feels.'
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The Equality Act 2010 states that service providers should make 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people to gain the same level of service as the rest of public, which may mean changing policy to allow assistance dogs onto the premises.
However, the owners of the Neptune Inn stated that this was not possible as they are only a small business and don't have the staff to allow the owner, who is also the chef, the time off to let the dog in the building.
They added they try to be as inclusive as possible and have made arrangements for disabled guests to visit in the past, but said this time it was not possible and the situation had caused them a great deal of anxiety and concern. They declined to comment further.
Figures from the The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association show that 47pc of their 5,000 clients have experienced access refusal in the past and that 180,000 people who are blind or partially sighted in the UK rarely leave their homes due to access refusals.
The association have been in contact with the Neptune Inn and informed them they need to gain a letter from a medical practitioner explaining the owner has a genuine fear leading to anxiety regarding dogs. This would then protect the business if anyone comes in with an assistance dog.
Helen Sismore, from the association, added: 'A guide dog is more than just a 'dog', it is primarily their mobility aid enabling them independence, it is as simple as becoming their 'eyes'.
'All our guide dog owners enter in to a contract and part of that contract is about ensuring the dog is calm, quiet and often unseen in public places such as restaurants.'